New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair may soon get the chance to explain just why his party thinks it should be permitted to use its Commons budget to foot the bill for out-of-town outposts in Quebec and Saskatchewan.
In March, the government took advantage of a rarely-used procedural tactic to pass a motion ordering Mulcair to appear before the procedure and House affairs committee to face questions over the allegedly improper use of parliamentary resources for "partisan purposes."
On Tuesday, lead Conservative committee member Tom Lukiwski served notice of a motion that would set May 13 as the date for Mulcair's appearance.
If passed, the motion would also authorize the chair to ask House administration to turn over documents related to those so-called "satellite" offices, including employment records for Montreal, copies of relevant correspondence with caucus officials on any and all such outposts "existing or planned" and a full explanation of the current rules regarding staff who work outside the precinct.
NDP says Mulcair 'looking forward' to appearance
It would also request correspondence between the House and Elections Canada, as well as with NDP House officers or research staff, related to "mass mailouts."
Last month, the all-party Board of Internal Economy issued a bulletin forbidding parties from using House money to pay the salaries of any employee who works out of a space "owned, leased or under the effective control of a political party," a move that prompted New Democrats to accuse their political rivals of joining forces to change the rules retroactively.
NDP spokeswoman Valerie Dufour told CBC News the party will provide a copy of the lease for the Montreal satellite office, which is also listed in Lukiwski's motion.
She also pointed out that, while the committee can't force Mulcair to appear, her boss has said that he's "looking forward" to the experience.
"We'll work with the committee to find a suitable date for his appearance."
But at the Tuesday morning meeting, NDP MP David Christopherson warned his colleagues that he intends to ask the committee chair to rule the motion out of order when it comes up for debate, which likely won't happen until next week.
The complete text of the motion:
That, pursuant to its Order of Reference of Thursday, March 27, 2014, regarding the matter of accusations of the Official Opposition’s improper use of House of Commons resources for partisan purposes, the Committee appoint Tuesday, May 13, 2014, for the appearance of the Leader of the Official Opposition;
That, prior to that meeting, the Committee request that the following documents be produced to the Clerk of the Committee no later than Friday, May 9, 2014, in order that they may be translated and provided to all members of the Committee,
- (a) from the House of Commons Administration, its employment records for all staff who have worked at the New Democratic Party operation located at 4428 boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montréal (otherwise known as the “Montréal satellite office”), with personal information redacted;
- (b) from the House of Commons Administration, all correspondence with the House Officers or Research Bureau of the Official Opposition, or any of their offices, regarding satellite offices, existing or planned, including, but not limited to, (i) the Montréal satellite office, (ii) a Saskatchewan satellite office, (iii) explanations of the rules regarding satellite offices, and (iv) explanations of the rules regarding staff who are neither employed in the Parliamentary Precinct or at constituency offices;
- (c) from the House of Commons Administration, all correspondence, during the past 12 months, with Elections Canada or the House Officers or Research Bureau of the Official Opposition, or any of their offices, regarding mass mailouts; and
- (d) from the Official Opposition or the New Democratic Party, as the case may be, the lease agreement for the Montréal satellite office; and
That the Committee request briefing materials, to be provided prior to this meeting, from the House of Commons Administration, including the Law Clerk, setting out an explanation of the jurisdiction of the Board of Internal Economy to investigate the use of House resources, whether in the matter of mass mailouts or satellite offices, including potential recourse available in cases of misuse or non-compliance.